DEAR ABBY: A year ago, my husband and I chose to permanently take in my cousin "Martha's" 11-year-old daughter, "Stella." She is smart as a whip and has a heart as big as Texas. My problem is, what should I do about Martha's other child, Stella's 8-year-old brother, "Carl"?
We are adopting Stella with no opposition from family. Martha neglects Carl as she did Stella, but refuses to give him up because she says she actually wanted to have Carl as opposed to her daughter. Stella would like us to adopt her brother, too, and becomes almost hysterical when we try to explain that it isn't possible right now.
I need an outside opinion. Should we consider adopting this other child? We already have my biological son with us full time. Help! -- WORRIED UP NORTH
DEAR WORRIED: If you believe that Carl is being neglected or that Martha is an unfit mother, it should be reported immediately to children's services. If they investigate and find there is cause, Stella's brother will be removed from the house.
However, whether you are in a position to adopt him is something on which you and your husband can decide. It will be an expensive undertaking, emotionally and financially, and there may be repercussions within the family. You should consult the attorney who is assisting you in Stella's adoption.
DEAR ABBY: Thank you for the letters you print about acts of kindness. Twenty-two years ago, while I was pregnant with my first child, my husband and I decided we'd take a quick trip to East Canyon Dam in Utah to play at the lake and spend the night. We took the food and supplies we thought we'd need. It was summer, the weather had been great and we planned to sleep under the stars.
As luck would have it, we were hit with an unexpected storm so severe we were unable to drive back down the canyon in the dark. We sought shelter in our tiny car, hoping the storm would die down. The next thing we knew, someone was knocking on our car window.
It was a man inviting us to come into his and his wife's camper out of the downpour. They couldn't stand to see us out in our car in the cold.
We accepted their invitation to stay warm and dry in their camper, and the next morning we all had breakfast together. I wrote down their names and address as we thanked them and left for home. I sent them a thank-you card later, but it was returned as undeliverable.
If they read this, I want them to know I think of them often and I'm still grateful for their act of kindness. The memory of their generosity inspires me to reach out a hand to others. -- J. CRAWLEY, AMERICAN FORK, UTAH
DEAR J. CRAWLEY: You and your husband were indeed fortunate that night. When I started reading your letter, I became concerned that you might be describing a plot from a "Friday the 13th" film. But as I continued I realized that it reminded me more of a story from the New Testament in which a caring innkeeper allowed another young, expectant couple to take shelter for the night in his barn. Your letter is a testimonial to the fact that an act of spontaneous generosity can have benefits that last far beyond when it's offered.
To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)